Tuesday, July 5, 2022

USMNT vs. Morocco: Projected starting XI and what to watch as Gregg Berhalter seeks consistency

The United States men’s national team embarks on its World Cup and Nations League tune-up period when it faces Morocco in a friendly on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium — stream via fuboTV (Get access now). It will be their toughest non-Concacaf competition since a friendly with Switzerland in May of 2021. Ranked 24th in the world according to FIFA, Morocco will offer good competition for a U.S. roster that is missing quite a few key players.

Let’s break down five things we expect, plus how to watch or stream the match.   

How to watch and odds

  • Date: Wednesday, Jun. 1 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: TQL Stadium — Cincinnati, Ohio
  • TV: ESPN2, TUDN | Live stream: fuboTV (Get access now)
  • Odds: USA +110; Draw +220; MOR +265 (via Caesars Sportsbook)

1. Projected starting XI

Gregg Berhalter has already confirmed some of the starting lineup during his pre-match press conference as Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long will start at center back. With Zack Steffen having to leave camp due to family issues, Arsenal’s soon-to-be goalkeeper Matt Turner will start in net. Berhalter also confirmed that Joe Scally won’t be starting, which may suggest he plans on having the first team lining up against Morocco.

If I had to choose a starting lineup it would likely look like this: Matt Turner; Antonee Robinson, Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, DeAndre Yedlin; Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson, Yunus Musah; Christian Pulisic, Jesus Ferreira, Tim Weah.

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2. A new central partnership

Aaron Long can possibly rise from recovering from his Achilles injury to starting in Qatar. At the moment, Chris Richards seems to be ahead of him in the depth chart but he’s out recovering from an injury and will likely be changing clubs this summer, so who knows what the future holds. Long has to see the opportunity in front of him and try to build chemistry with Zimmerman. He isn’t an overly aggressive center back, so that will allow Zimmerman to step with confidence.

That’s a partnership that will be hard to change if it works well. It’s tough for players who can’t make the camp, and while the may still be on Berhalter’s radar, not being here hurts their chances cracking the World Cup squad.

3. Can Turner regain starter status?

We enter another year where the goalkeeper position is up for grabs. As it stands, all three American shot-stoppers will be in the Premier League next season, but all as backups at their respective clubs, with their best shot at minutes coming as cup keepers. Turner could have an advantage with Arsenal playing in the Europa League to that respect. At times, larger clubs will allow their second keeper to start Europa League games and that could be the case at Arsenal if they are looking to protect Aaron Ramsdale.

“What we can do is assess these situations, keep using these games to get the guys familiar with our game model and then keep watching their progress as they move through the fall with their clubs,” said Berhalter when asked about the keeper situation. He didn’t rule out possibly talking to the keepers about going on loan if situations don’t change. If all three stay put at their current clubs, then Turner could be the one to emerge with the most playing time at a higher level heading into the World Cup. With strong performances in friendlies against Morocco and Uruguay, Turner could give himself a great platform to stake a claim for the No. 1 shirt.

4. Any game-changers available off the bench?

Berhalter is confident in the group that got them to this point and it’s why he’s leaning on his regulars for a game like this, but it gives fringe players somewhat similar opportunities ahead of the World Cup in November. They chose to not bring in a replacement for Djordje Mihailovic who left camp with an ankle injury. “Keep focus on getting better and continue to do what you’ve been doing. If you do that, there will be other opportunities for you down the road,” Berhalter told reported his message to Mihailovic after he was injured at a critical moment during the brief build-up period ahead of the World Cup.

The same goes for other members of the squad who will have a chance to come in and make an impact as a sub in limited minutes. Malik Tillman and Haji Wright are two who fall into that category. They’ve been strong in training and turning some heads in friendlies can give them a shot. Nations League will be the time where players who fail to crack the XI could get cameos to secure caps and give everyone a chance at playing. There aren’t many new faces on the roster but that’s a nod to how strong the core is that is available to Berhalter.

5. Brenden in the middle

Following his transfer to Leeds United, Berhalter will be playing Brenden Aaronson in the middle against Morocco. This is a change from how Aaronson has been deployed so far on the wings. It gives the team a stronger midfield going forward in the absence of Weston McKennie, who is only fit enough for about 20 minutes. Kellyn Acosta and Luca de la Torre have both played as the third midfielder. Aaronson, who played centrally with RB Salzburg, is a strong combination of the two.

He will continue to do so with Leeds United and given the amount of wingers available for USMNT, this is a good chance to see him in a different role. This camp is the time to try new things, and returning a player to his natural position might be one of the biggest things to watch.

USMNT roster 

Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 7/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 16/0)

Defenders (9): George Bello (Arminia Bielefeld/GER; 6/0), Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 24/1), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 8/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 23/3), Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes/FRA; 3/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 25/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 0/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami; 73/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 28/3)

Midfielders (7): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 51/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 27/1), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED; 7/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 31/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 16/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 31/0), Malik Tillman (Bayern Munich/GER; 0/0)

Forwards (7): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 18/5), Paul Arriola (FC Dallas; 44/9), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 9/3), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 46/10), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 48/21), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 22/2), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 0/0)

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